Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Fleeing the Death Squad

I once attended a spirited panel discussion at Emory University on the fatwa or death sentence pronounced by the deeply, I guess, religious leaders of Iran, on the author of The Satanic Verses. People lined up at the mics for a Q & A session and I was appalled by the smug prevailing attitude that Salman Rushdie brought the reaction on himself. More disturbing, not once was the question of freedom of speech raised, neither from the panel nor audience of mostly middle-easterners. I suppose that’s the number of times it was raised in the discussion leading up to fatwa in Iran also.

It is a truly an astonishing fact that some people of “faith” imagine that a being capable of creating an intricate, awe-inspiring cosmos of perhaps infinite scope in both micro and macro directions, would be possessed of such a delicate ego that He’d(!) be insulted by anything said in a book, and would be consolable only when one of his followers murdered the author, preferably preceded by a longish session of devilish, ah, make that holy torture. Why not just a lightning bolt from the offended almighty?

Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses got him in a great deal of trouble – 13 years of Her Majesty’s finest police protection and a claustrophobic isolation which ultimately proved intolerable. Rushdie claims that The Satanic Verses is quite mild iconoclastic-wise, the guilty passages actually coming from a character, fictitious mind you, who has some thoughts about Islam deemed blasphemous by one faction in the assorted interpretations of a text, authoritive only to those who set aside their capacity for critical thought. But these words, Rushdi claims, were seized upon by Khomeini to distract the masses. The Iranian Revolution had delivered the people from the murderous torturers of the Shaw to murderous torturers of Khomeini and they were beginning to notice this, along with the inept and arbitrary nature of his rule. So strategy number one in Machiavelian politics – when the people start questioning authority, start a little war, or, as it were, a fatwa.

Joseph Anton, a Memoir is Rushdie’s account of 13 years in hiding with excursions into his pre and post life. His success as an author had really only just begun, the Verses being his fourth book of fiction, so a good bit of his writing was done during that exile, though there were a few dry periods in there, what with the writer’s block and paranoia that screaming mobs of holy rollers can induce. Speaking of holy rollers, an unexpected personage joined the cry for Rushdie’s death, one Yosuf something or other, aka Cat Stevens. I checked out an interview by Tavis Smiley of the bearded Cat (nothing against beards except when they’re mandatory) as he was out promoting a come-back album, hoping Tavis might inquire just where on the ol’ Peace Train that assassination call would fit. Tavis is a smart guy but fell down on that one. According to Rushdie, Cat denies having sung that particular tune but the deed is well documented and Salman is not very forgiving on this point. Oddly, John LeCarre was critical of the author for daring to “criticize one of the great religions.” Salman was rather annoyed at the spy writer’s lack of empathy there. He thought, in retrospect, it might have been a mistake to pan that LeCarre book in the New Yorker. Sensitive guys these writers.

Years of dealing with overly restrictive protection teams, bloodthirsty mullahs, unfriendly tabloids complaining about the cost of protecting him and questioning whether he deserved it, police who seemed to feel the same, publishers who were afraid to publish him, both in England and the states, former friends who distanced themselves, airlines who refused to fly him, his own home country, India, who wouldn’t allow him to visit,  landlords who wouldn’t rent to him, all took a toll on the writer’s sense of well being. One mullah in London in particular was zealously organizing demonstrations and openly calling for Rushdie’s death… isn’t that illegal? Efforts were made to prosecute the writer under England’s blasphemy laws which it turns out only apply to the Church of England. Efforts were then made to broaden the law and came very close to passage. Tony Blair was willing to vote for it and his one vote would have carried the day for intolerance but a miscommunication had him away from parliament at the wrong (or right) time. There is on youtube a debate between Blair and the late Christopher Hitchens, a close friend of Rushdie, where Hitchens absolutely wipes the floor with the former prime minister.

Friends who stuck by him, loaning their weekend houses or apartments, fellow writers who made public statements in support and condemnation of fundamentalism, his agents and publishers who saw the importance to free speech of his case, friends who put together a non-profit to push for lifting of the fatwa, members of the protective teams,… all receive grateful praise in the memoir. President Clinton met with him, giving him a boost in his campaign as did a group of conservative senators who stood for group photos and made statements lauding free speech. This seems, at first blush, quite out of character until one remembers that an anti-Islam stance would hardly disenchant the typical U.S. voter. Yet Britain was particularly unwilling to take a public position nor to press Iran to lift the fatwa, more concerned apparently with maintaining positive relations for reasons of commerce. Things improved noticeably when Labor came to power but as the incident with Tony Blair and the blasphemy law indicate, the improvement was definitely limited. Also puzzling is the failure of British citizens, of Islamic faith, to acknowledge notions of free speech and to publicly rally for Rushdie’s death. I mean… sticks and stones etc;

Despite Rushdie’s isolation, or perhaps because of it, he managed to divorce two women and a third shortly after the fatwa was lifted. The first was his second marriage. A son from the first marriage grows up during the exile and figures prominently in the story. Fortunately the fatwa was aimed solely at Rushdie so his family were not targeted, proving I suppose, the marginally uplifting thesis that religious fanatics are not as ruthless as druglords. Less assuring is the support given right wing theories about the medieval nature of  Islam and the tenuous hold notions of free speech have on western politicians. I doubt that U.S. senators would have happily posed before the cameras with a writer condemned for questioning the superstition of Christianity. The whistleblower who exposed U.S. torture in Iraq may not have had a fatwa issued on his head but he was soundly unpopular when returning to his home town. Instead of denouncing the torturers people charged the whistleblower with some kind of disloyalty. Go figure on that. I guess it boils down to identifying with the home team. I remember abusive name-calling and a few actual fist fights, after high school football games, with the fans from a town only eleven miles away. What brings people to these kind of limited identifications is an exaggerated elaboration on a basic, maybe instinctual, caution toward strangers, to wit, fear.

Rushdie himself succumbed at one particularly low point in his ordeal, meeting with the British mullahs, hoping for some kind of resolution, The clerics insisted he had to renounce the book and sign a “confession” hearkening back to the inquisition. Rushdie was later so embarrassed by his signature on a compromise document that he decided to go on the offensive, appearing in public, defending himself and pushing back hard at the fanatics, hoping to shift public opinion and promote the freedom of speech that the west supposedly values. Never the less, lifting of the fatwa came years later, seemingly as arbitrarily as it had arrived. That rigid minds can come to a position of power where they can dictate such injustice ought to be a lesson, a reminder of Jefferson’s dictum that freedom requires eternal vigilance.

Monday, November 19, 2012

National Narrative and Received Wisdom

Nations have national flags in order to give the population a nice visual to identify with. A narrative is fashioned to associate with that symbol, all according to good stimulus-response behavioral psychology. The narrative relates more or less to history, usually less. The former Soviet Union for example had a story where the workers triumph over the corrupt capitalist, monarchy and opiate religion, ever vigilante as they build a socialist paradise. In reality the story, though rooted in real concerns and yearnings, was put forth for maximum control by a sociopathic, if charismatic, control freak. The U.S., lest “we” get too smug, has its own narrative of democracy by for and of the people but only in so far as corporations are the people.

Miko Peled relates, in his book The General's Son, is the son of a highly decorated Israeli General who in his later years went public with the misgivings he’d had all along about Israeli policy toward Palestinians. He and his family experienced the predictable social shunning, tempered a bit by the general’s sterling reputation and service to the nation. The general while alive, and now his son, endeavored to point out that the goal of Zionist Israel is, and has been from day one, to make life for Palestinians so miserable and hopeless that they will leave the land to those who, some believe, “God gave to his people”.

The national narrative attempts to mask this policy, inventing stories about Israel’s formation ranging from voluntary Palestinian evacuation to denial of their very presence at the beginning of the 1947 lop-sided U.N. two-state partition. The myth portrays the Jewish population of 500,000, mostly immigrants, triumphing over a much larger hostile Arab force. In fact Israel had a 40,000 strong army and Palestinians virtually none. A Zionist Jewish militia began ethnic cleansing immediately after the partition, destroying 500 towns and villages and forcing a million people into exile. It was only months later that Egypt and others responded with a failed invasion. Zionists expelled  many Palestinians and confiscated their homes, offering them to Jews. Peled’s Mother refused, seeing at once the injustice. His Father suggested a solution and a bridge to peace with the neighboring Arab countries in granting the Palestinians the West Bank and Gaza. Instead Israel continued to confiscate the best land in the West Bank and to drive out the Palestinian population. Even today, 50,000 Palestinians are being displaced near Jerusalem with the specious claim that the neighborhood sits on top of the biblical King David’s land. General Peled spent his last years searching for reconciliation but the government eventually made it illegal to meet with Palestinians.

An instance that shows the intertwining of Israeli and U.S. narratives is when peace talks broke down with Arafat’s intransigence being blamed in the U.S. press. Actually Arafat had bent over backwards, accepting conditions of no-return for exiled Palestinians and 80% of the land going to Israel. The real reason for break-down was Israel wanting it all, one Israeli commenting, “It isn’t the guy on top who has to say uncle.”

Miko, though born and raised in Israel, was 39 years old before he sat down and talked with actual Palestinians. This he could only do outside Israel.  He got an earful, realizing how inaccurate and self-serving the national narrative and how correct his Father’s view. He remembered when serving his military obligation, going into a Palestinian village and being ordered to, “break every bone in the body of anyone who so much as looks at you”. Miko explains that even Palestinians who are citizens of Israel suffer discrimination. They need permission, which is never granted, to build an addition on their homes and getting a mortgage is nearly impossible. They are subject to arbitrary confiscation, as in the Jerusalem case cited above. Non-citizen Palestinians are completely at the mercy of military whim. Peled refers to the Israeli army as the most well-armed and funded terrorist organization on the planet. The mainstream U.S. press describes Israeli military actions as war but the truth is, says Peled, that these actions are massacres. In January 2008 Israel enacted a 21 day assault on Gaza, dropping 100 tons of bombs on the first day, killing 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians. At this writing Israel is once again conducting operations(!) in Gaza. These are war crimes but what we get out of our politicians is scolding of the Palestinians for soiling the bayonets of our distinguished ally. U.S. law forbids the use of weapons we provide to any country against civilians but U.S. narrative has it that Palestinians are terrorists, Israelis the good guys and you will find little to contradict that in mainstream accounts.

Most progressives (and the international community, aside from U.S. and Israel) support a two-state solution. Israel’s settlements intentionally defy this consensus and the U.S. uses its U.N. veto to shield Israeli intransigence. U.S. mainstream media, as with so much else, keep us uninformed on the subject. Peled calls for a ONE land, ONE state solution, a non-Jewish state. He argues that half of the population is Palestinian and should not be forced into second class status. Each side in the conflict has its extremists, Peled believes, but they are in the minority. The vast majority on both sides could happily adapt to what Peled envisions, a free, non-Jewish, secular democratic state.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Justice at the School of Assassins

                                "This Democracy stuff worries me. Thank Dios
                                       we always have Sam to back us up."

As the annual converging on Fort Benning, Georgia approaches, organized by SOA (School of the Americas) Watch (November 17-18) it is perhaps helpful to review: the Salvadoran army officers who murdered Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and young daughter in 1989, were pardoned in El Salvador. In outrageous contrast the thirteen U.S. citizens who reenacted the 1989 murders, as part of a demonstration against the School of the Americas (S.O.A. - School of Assassins) where the officers were trained, were sentenced to prison. This has happened every year since the murders and will continue, according to organizers, until the school is closed.

The pious, if sleepy, Judge Elliot, who found the defendants guilty April 29, 1998 also imposed on them a telling anecdote: if a man steals bread for his starving children he has good motives but criminal intent, has broken the law and therefore should go to prison. Apparently the learned judge has not read Les Miserable, or perhaps did read the sad tale and identified with the sociopathic prosecutor, cheering on his obsessive pursuit.

The defense took two basic strategies: to call for dismissal of the charges (engaging in banned political activity at Fort Benning where the school is located) on the grounds that only those opposing the S.O.A. were banned while those in favor were allowed to express their support; and that a higher moral law justifies the "illegal" action taken by the group. The analogy was drawn that citizens would have been breaking German law if they had stopped the death trains to Auschwitz but a higher moral law would have absolved them.

Reverend Bill Bichsel, in his eloquent pre-sentencing statement, said, " We are not afraid of your jails or your police. We will be back to demonstrate on each anniversary of the murders until that school is closed. I hope one day you (Judge Elliot) will join us." Spontaneous and sustained applause erupted in the packed court room, sending the Sheriff in charge of security walking in circles  frantically wondering what to do about it.

The S.O.A. claims that its instruction aims to instill "American" values in its students. Some folks from the area might point out that they too are “Americans”, if Central or South Americans. Critics claim that the school actually teaches torture techniques (verified by the leaking of a manual). The fact is that many of its graduates have engaged in undemocratic activities, coups and assassinations, such notorious figures as Manuel Noriega and El Salvador death squad leader Roberto D'Aubuisson. It is a dubious proposition that a rigid hierarchical military is the appropriate teacher of democratic values. The school’s unspoken mission, and one of the reasons it should be closed, is to establish relationship with Latin American military officers so as to have coup-influence in the event leaders down there get the idea that democracy is more important than U.S. corporate interests, as happened recently in Honduras. Our dear Senator Shameless responded to my letter asking him to push for democracy there by claiming that the over-thrown president, I paraphrase, had it coming. He was attempting to extend his term. My! Far worse a crime than violently taking over a country and banning the legitimate, elected president who may or may not have been planning to, through legal means, extend his term. His real crime of course was putting the needs of his fellow citizens before corporate and elite interests and – shudder – associating with (elected) Venezuelan President Chavez (routinely referred to as a dictator in mainstream "American" media). U.S. yearning for democracy and freedom seem to run consistently along these two lines: flamboyant and self-righteous rhetorical concern contrasted with apparent fear and loathing of the real thing. The annual SOA event is one opportunity for citizens to oppose this murderous hypocrisy.    www.soaw.org

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Mitt-Wit Debate Strategy

                                                                    Mitt-Wit drawing, 2012 Tom Ferguson

Remember when there was a flap about Fox News and the White House Press room? Fox had annoyed Obama and there was some restrictions entertained on their presence at the press room. When the  press corps stood up in defense of Fox, instead of defending their position with a list of Fox presentations that clearly show them to be an extension of the Republican Party not a news organization the White House hem-hawed and backed down.

This pattern repeats again and again. When the administration attempted to bargain with the Republicans in congress he gave up plenty but got back-stabbed with virtually zero Republican votes. And in the debate wednesday, while Mitt-wit rudely and aggressively mis-represented his and the President's positions, Obama failed to zero in on the very real weaknesses in Romney's program and philosophy.

Obama was asked if his stand on social security differed from his opponent and he said, "NO!" Here is the Democrat's strongest issue and he says no, no difference. Later Romney's voucher plan was aired but minus the emphasis such a startling contrast, privatization versus defense of one government program that really works, deserves. The Dems have this odd notion that they should comport themselves like "gentlemen", which ends up translating, wimp. The Republicans do not buy into this particular thesis nor do they have much of a relationship with integrity or truth, as the fact-checkers can tell you.  

Noam Chomsky has pointed out that the two most urgent issues, climate change and nuclear weapons, issues that seriously threaten our civilization were not even mentioned in the first debate. The race for the most powerful office on the planet reduces to a beauty contest with the candidates maneuvering to peel off the layer of their opponent's least committed supporters without alienating their most committed. The challenger of course comes from a party less restrained by principle, both in what they will say and what they will steal.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Drone On Oh Military Industrial Complex, Drone On

The mainstream media, which serves the elite who own them, hastened to promote a rush to judgment about Muslim “fanatics” recently attacking our embassies and “interests”. In order to continue to embrace the myth that portrays the U.S. as the “good guys”, we necessarily must overlook the “fanatical” drone warfare the U.S. is conducting in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and other places which have killed far more innocent civilians than died in the embassy attacks. The word fanatic obviously connotes irrationalism, which Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Codepink and Global Exchange, argued, in her Atlanta talk at the Friends Meeting house 9/17/12, characterizes U.S. drone warfare, both in its rationalization and in its blindness to consequences.

Benjamin cites polls that show 70% of the U.S. population think the war in Afghanistan is not worth fighting. That the war continues, or was even contemplated in the beginning, reflects a lynch mob mentality cynically exploited by the infamous war industry and minions in congress. People were naturally upset at the murderous 911 attacks. Reaction went in the lynch-mob direction due partly to our education system which has deliberately chosen a mind-deadening testing emphasis over critical thinking. Those who were positioned to make critical decisions at the beginning, far from feeling trapped by that mentality, were major proponents of the authoritarianism behind it. I speak of Bush-Cheney and company of course. Presumably Obama feels trapped by the mentality and thus believes it politically necessary to wiggle out of the quagmire ever so slowly, but this may be over-charitable. Since 70% of the electorate wants out of an endless war just what makes it politically necessary? Could it be the ideological faction of the profit-making 1%?

Politicians often utilize “tough on crime” rhetoric, or demonize official enemies to manipulate the electorate and enhance their reelection prospects. Calling for diplomacy isn’t seen as macho enough, too vulnerable a position for most politicos. Yet casualties of war, on the U.S. side, eventually become problematic. Thus the appeal of drones. None of our guys get killed, who cares about collateral damage? Only effete bleeding heart liberals who it is imagined are too few to worry about. These namby pamby sissies it is thought by real men, are aiding the enemy when they point out that drones are one of Al Qaeda’s chief recruitment tools.

In a manner of speaking, drones are piloted. Pilots are sited remotely in air-conditioned bunkers in the good ol’ USA, going home for dinner with the family after a hard day watching the video screen, playing with the joy stick. To be fair many of these military workers suffer agonizing guilt over the sometimes horrific consequences of their play stations. When one operator pressed his launch button he then, too late, noticed two kids wheel onto the scene on bicycles. The total number of drone “kills” are estimated between 2,400 and 3,200: Civilians 480 – 828, children 175. These figures are ambiguous because one of the drone targets considered legitimate(!) is a militant or combatant, defined as a male of military age. Two other criteria are considered for drone pilots to launch an attack, (one every four days currently): are you on the president’s macabre “hit list”, put together every Tuesday at the White House? Are you engaged in “suspicious” activity? Suspicious activity has included weddings, men with guns (virtually all men in Afghanistan in these times), and a party of elders attempting to resolve conflict in a village square, an Afghan tradition apparently unknown at the play station (50 killed). Obviously citizens transformed from innocent bystander to widely dispersed pieces of torn flesh leave rather angry relatives – terrorists to the non-critical thinker. Mark Twain, in his depiction of the Hatfield/McCoy feud might have hoped to have more of an impact on education but sadly the testing faction, so far, seems to be secure in its domination of the subject. Well, with a large populace of the willing-to-follow-orders and believe- anything-on-Faux-News, there’s a lot of money to be made. There’s a circular argument in play: we need more drones because of the increase in “militants”. Drone killings create more militants… etc; There are currently more than 10,000 drones, up from about 50 at the time of 911. Another circular argument, sort of, happens when the industry that produces drones fires up their lobbyists. By the way; the U.S. is number one in something these days, for those whose self esteem is tied in with the nation state, arms sales abroad, not to mention disturbing facts like U.S. military spending exceeding all other nations put together. Feel safe yet?

Speaking of suspicious activity, where does the authority come from to engage in state terrorism? Our esteemed Attorney General has stated that the Constitution does not guarantee Judicial Process, but rather Due Process, a process that happens every Tuesday in the White House when the president spins the bottle or however he decides who to go after this week. This is, he claims, due process. Does the AG remember Jim Crow? the process of the lynch mob? If his definition justifies drones how does the lynch mob not also constitute due process? Is this the change we were told we could believe in? At least as U.S. citizens we are safe, right? Um… it seems that due process, the AG Orwellian kind, applies to whomever the president decides it applies to. A U.S. citizen, Cleric Anwar Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki (don’t quote me on that name), was killed by a drone in Yemen the day before the Democratic Convention began in Charlotte. Two days later, his 16 year old son, sitting around a campfire on a hill, also a U.S. citizen, killed at a sleep-over while grieving his father’s death. More suspicious behavior.

Another nice thing about drones is the belief, or pronouncement, that if there are no U.S. troops on the ground there’s no war so the War Powers Act is irrelevant, just in case the congress ever takes a day from meeting with lobbyists and fund-raising to fiddle with that little ol’ Act. It seems that presidents consider one of the perks of office to have live video war games on a scale any gamer would kill for.

The sponsor of Medea Benjamin’s visit to Atlanta, Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition (GPJC) has a membership that is aware of the real world repercussions of these games and has been attempting since before the invasion of Iraq, to intervene in a call for sanity. Their website might be a means for concerned citizens to join them. As a footnote, Medea Benjamin, along with representatives from international peace groups, are at this writing, in the very scary, very volatile Pakistan, risking all to walk in an anti-drone peace march, in defiance of the lunacy that seems to dwell in the empire.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Thick As Thieves

                                               Drawing, Business Climate, by Tom Ferguson

John Dean, one of the white collar criminals caught up in Richard Nixon’s early 70s paranoia, at first as felon but later as informer when abandoned by his co-conspirators, has written a book, Worse Than Watergate, which goes some distance in demonstrating his rehabilitation. Halderman and Ehrlichman, the German-Americans above him in the White House hierarchy, at first used then abandoned Dean as scapecoat, hoping to end the Watergate investigation there. Once they recognized that Dean was not willing to continue the cover-up, which was ever-deepening his criminal culpability, they fired him but eventually went on themselves as lambs-to-slaughter in the house-cleaning that ended with Nixon himself. Ehrlichman’s subsequent post-prison endeavors consisted chiefly in writing crime fiction from his Arizona retreat. Some of the other Watergate conspirators took the tried and true, if drearily predictable, trod path of publicly embracing the Jesus con. Before leaving the Watergate subject proper it should be pointed out that the hounds were turned loose on Nixon not because he conducted an illegal war, violated the rights of citizens nor even for breaking the laws that brought him down. That was mere pretense. Nixon was brought to heel as lesson of what happens to someone, even someone as powerful as the president, especially someone as powerful as a president, who steps on the wrong toes. Normally, as these things go, a few underlings might be punished. There it would stop (witness the
serious crimes of Bush-Cheney or as Chomsky has stated, “No president in the 20th century would have escaped hanging if the Nuremberg Principles were truly in force.” – the statement might be applied to the current century also, without error). No, Nixon made enemies of powerful people, of the wrong class. He is quoted in Oliver Stone’s film Nixon, replying to one of his funders who is complaining about the EPA, “If you think the EPA is tough, try the IRS.” And Nixon did turn the IRS on his long enemies list, people who in one way or another slighted his fragile ego, some of whom, as just stated, were powerful members of the ruling elite.

Dean’s book states in the opening section that its intent was to raise awareness about and hopefully take the air out of the obsessive secrecy of the Bush-Cheney administration that otherwise threatened to take the air out of our democracy. The book, published in 2004, prior to the second term elections, though it failed to impact that election and also failed in its basic goal, remains relevant since that democracy we are taught to value is hardly completely safe in the hands of the Obama administration and certainly would fare even worse under the, shudder, current opposition candidate. We are offered an insight into power politics, up close, lest we succumb to the hypnotic drone of patriotism.

Nixon’s team was particularly ruthless, specializing in what came to be called dirty tricks which they used to advance their political rise, which success was not lost on subsequent politicians. Karl Rove came to the attention of the first Bush when complaints from fellow republicans about his electoral shenanigans reached his office. Calling him in for what was supposed to be a reprimand Rove ended up with a new job, hit man, his creative “shenanigans” being just what was needed in the Bush quest for power. Rove’s predecessor, Lee Atwater, had devised the shamefully racist Willie Horton ads. His credentials thus established, Rove became indispensable confidant to the younger Bush. Bag of dirty tricks in hand he helped W dispense with one of his chief rivals in the South Carolina primaries. In successive attacks the Bush camp accused McCain of being gay, adopting a “dark skinned” daughter (true but in SC apparently a dishonor), being a philanderer and of having a drug-addicted spouse. This all worked to the desired effect so why wouldn’t they continue waving the hatchet? Narrowly escaping prison Rove is presently promoting corporate speech across the country, helping to take the air out of democracy, as ever. In the contested Florida elections in 2000, Brownshirts were flown in to disrupt the vote count in Miami, intimidating and successfully preventing a re-count. They apparently will stop at nothing and they will keep a straight face as they call it Democracy. Cheney is quoted to wit: “Principle is okay, up to a certain point but principles don’t do you any good if you lose.”

When Bush left the governorship of Texas he had his papers transferred to his father’s Presidential Library, thus circumventing Texas law and protecting the papers from public scrutiny, presumably his intent. Could there be something in there he wants hidden? As President, W performed one of those magic tricks called “signings” which changed the law around Presidential papers, making his and his father’s papers inaccessible to the public for the time that it would matter in terms of prosecution and embarrassment. Signings are equivalent to decrees put out by Royalty, given legitimacy by the failure of anyone with clout to challenge them. This obsession with hiding things was a top priority even when the stakes were trivial. A secret-for-secret’s sake, Imperial Presidency as Dean would say. When Cheney appointed an energy committee the names of the members and the minutes of their deliberations were kept secret, to the extent of going to court to protect something that surely could be found out by any enterprising reporter. Dean concludes that the over-arching purpose was to weaken the congress and resuscitate and expand the “Imperial Presidency” of Richard Nixon.

Though Bush-Cheney flagrantly attacked their campaign enemies, even making stuff up as with McCain and Gore, they would insist on “privacy” to evade questions on their own history. Bush referred to everything in his life before 1988 as his “childhood” and so irrelevant. His resume has only one item between college graduation 1975 and 1988. One writer created a timeline to show W’s rise coinciding exactly with his father’s political rise. His business creation, Arbusto, not on his resume, went through millions, going bust in 1984. His next venture, CEO of Spectrum 7, also went bust. Harkan Oil was next, an oil exploration company, bankrupt. George Soros, also with that company, stated that W’s presence on the board was soley for access to the presidential influence of his father. For this same reason W was invited to head a group to buy the Texas Rangers. He failed to round up enough investors so the baseball commissioner intervened, using his influence to snag investors for the hapless son. Once the team was bought the next step was to scam the team’s home town citizenry, bilking them for the cost of the stadium in a scheme full of falsehood that left the stadium in the hands of the owners though the town had put up most of the funding. The team owners ended up paying $60 million for a $189 million dollar stadium. W later sold his share for $14 million, on an investment of a borrowed $500,000. Mayor Green ramrodded the stadium deal through the Arlington city government and deceptive referendum, later being appointed by W to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Who says crime doesn’t pay?

In June 1990 W sold his Harken stock, which he had used to collateralize the Texas Ranger loan, for $800,000. Eight days later the stock fell to half its value. An insider trading SEC investigation was headed by W’s former attorney with predictable results. The obvious conflict of interest was not raised by politico nor press. Both W and Cheney were under investigation for insider trading on 9/11/2001. Of course that little inquiry drifted away with the World Trade Center smoke. Some folks see public office as a means to get their manicured fingers on the treasury and to assure that the proper class keeps its hand on the national rudder. An obsession with secrecy is a useful habit in avoiding the rare prosecutor who might be so crass as to investigate the exalted class. It helps also to be able to appoint the Attorney General. And what AG, FBI head or Police Chief wouldn’t enjoy the authority to enter any premises, take whatever they want and never have to acknowledge it? Something the Patriot Act grants the ironically named Department of Homeland Security. The next best thing to getting your hands on the treasury is bestowing that privilege on your friends and associates with the understanding that they will scratch your back one day in return and advance your agenda at every opportunity.

Throughout his narrative Dean draws parallels between the administration he worked for and W's. Nixon was known to have “cowboys” (thugs) assault and/or remove demonstrators from his sight when the police or secret service wouldn’t or couldn’t. W was sued by the ACLU in 2003 for forcing demonstrators into so-called “free speech zones” so as not to have to experience dissent and, more importantly, keep them out of the news. These incidents are a measure of the anti-democratic values of these “leaders”. Even after making promises to the court restrictions continued under W. A manual guiding preparations for presidential motorcades and appearances was obtained in court proceedings which clearly revealed the unconstitutional restrictions. One couple settled with the government for $80,000, a nice chunk of change for them but it comes from the taxpayer not the violator so does little to curtail the behavior.

Another incident is also revealing. An Atlanta-based employee of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), frustrated by the department’s failure to pursue certain well-placed criminals, leaked the information that Michael Ashcroft, a British ‘Lord’, one of the richest men in the United Kingdom, was involved in drug money laundering. The whistleblower was identified and sentenced to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine. Instead of going after the criminal the justice (!) department went after the messenger. Wrong class again.

Nixon illegally invaded Cambodia and mislead the public into believing he had a plan to end the Vietnam War, which ended after he left office in disgrace, under terms that could have been had many years and lives earlier. W & Company committed truly impeachable offenses when they lied about WMDs to get us into Iraq, another illegal war and pursued a military solution in Afghanistan to a police problem of terrorism. To a them/us football mentality of course there was little recourse which simply meant the public was not difficult to manipulate by unscrupulous, dare I say, sociopaths? I do dare. Unfortunately Obama, apparently a football fan also, like Johnson before him, bought into the lesser of Bush's illegal wars. Some claim he resisted the Iraq exit, dragging his feet meeting obligations forced on W by the Iraq government.

When the perfectly reasonable congressional inquiry into 911 began to be discussed W & Co. attempted to block it. When that proved not feasible the next best step was to stack it with cronies in key positions, which they did, making for a final commission report that lacked credibility. The likely reason for opposing an investigation was to hide ineptness. A bipartisan Blue Ribbon Commission had after all submitted a report, prior to 911, calling for a laundry list of anti-terrorist action that was ignored by the administration which seemed to rather prefer to hang out awaiting an incident they could exploit for their own agenda. That agenda can be found in the writings of the neo-con group, Project for the New American Century, which essentially called for U.S. world hegemony, benevolent of course to “democracy” and free markets – the latter the real value, the former thrown in for window dressing. The writers of this document, which originated with Cheney when he was Secretary of Defense in the early 90s, were populating the administration when the incident their writings cited as being necessary for their plan to gain acceptance came to be… 911 was thus exploited with a vengeance. The alternative “conspiracy theories” around 911 cannot be laid to rest without a credible investigation.

Dean's book contains many more horrendous and surprising details about government malfeasance when it is taken over by ideologues. Who was it said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.”… Jefferson I think, but the documentation of contempt for democracy brought to light in Dean’s book is a good argument in support of that contention. We would be wise to follow it and not allow jingoist rhetoric and patriotic display to distract us from the task.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Nuclear Roulette

The new president of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) came through Atlanta recently, speaking at the Unitarian Universalist Church (some would dispute whether UU, as it is called, is a real church since belief plays little or no role – the “great undecided” some chide). The lecture was in honor of the late Ed Arnold, former Executive Director of PSR/Atlanta and a long-time, much loved Atlanta activist. PSR concerns itself with multiple issues: Climate Change, POPs (persistent organic pollutants), Gun Safety and, if that is not depressing or Quixotic enough, Nuclear Warheads, Proliferation and Energy. The latter was the focus of President Ira Heflin’s remarks.

Doctor Heflin would have us know that there is NO… repeat, NO… ZERO safe level of radiation, that ALL radiation causes cancer (not to mention stroke, heart disease and lowered IQ) and that radiation is leaked into the environment, the life system upon which we depend, at every stage of the nuclear process. Obviously nuclear bombs release radioactivity which was done with devious abandon and false assurances of safety, during open-air testing in the 40s and 50s. But long before we reach that stage we have uranium mining (frequently on indigenous land of course) and transportation, both actual and potential release opportunities. The normal function of nuclear plants involves the routine release of more radiation and of course accidents add to the toxic mix. Can you say Chernobyl? Three-mile Island? Fukushima? And many lesser or unknown “events”. This applies to reactors and weapons projects which the powers that be and industry would have us believe are as different as apples and oranges. Well, there are differences – one is for energy, one is for, well, what are nuclear weapons for? Intimidation (um, seems to fit some definitions of terrorism, as for example the U.S. Army’s)? Mass suicide? In any event this difference is mitigated by the fact that the first, energy, was originally a cover for the second, a screen behind which the horrors of Dr. Strangelove could be developed. Energy still serves this function, the “peaceful atom” as they like to call it, but it has also grown into a lobbyist-heavy industry which, like the poor ego, desires to grow and perpetuate itself. Maybe the cancer cell is a more apt analogy since it, when successful, eventually kills its host.

But before we move on we might mention one final source of radiation: nuclear waste. The entire nuclear plant is essentially radioactive at the end of its “useful” life, along with irradiated fuel rods and plutonium all of which is toxic, highly dangerous, for, oh say, a million years, a lot longer than recorded history. After over 60 years of fooling with this sexy technology no one has any idea what to do with its persistent un-sexy leftovers for the duration necessary. It is said that dysfunctional persons care little about the consequences of their behavior, developing convincing, at least to themselves, rationalizations to justify whatever it is they want to do. Could that possibly apply to this topic? Just as weapons development was slipped in behind the “peaceful atom”, another little scheme of the sociopaths is to “recycle” plutonium. Now doesn’t that sound nice? Recycle. This will get rid of, it is implied, our plutonium problem but look closer, behind the veil, and we find not all the plutonium “recycled” by burning as fuel in nuclear reactors would be used, or can be used, and the process of separating out the plutonium, called reprocessing before they switched over to recycling to capitalize on the prestige of that word, is an extremely “dirty” business involving highly toxic chemicals which must also be disposed/contained for long periods. The French thought this one up since they are highly addicted to nuclear power, having foolishly invested in it to the tune of 60 plants in that relatively tiny country. Why would they do such a thing? Why would Japan build nearly the same number on an earthquake fault? The sociopaths claw their way to power whenever they can, where they can then pursue their projects without the pesty obstacles of conscience, or concern for consequences.

So long as there are nuclear plants producing the key ingredient for nuclear weapons, plutonium (Pu), there is the threat of proliferation. Of course what Pu already exists will take 250,000 years! to decay into a harmless substance so you can see we have a long-term problem here. We should note that plutonium did not exist until we (they) created it in reactors, sort of a pandora’s box kind of pathology. How do we keep this stuff safely stored and out of the hands of terrorists for those kind of time-frames? Hell, how can we even be assured that the stuff won’t be completely forgotten, like some Mayan ruin waiting to be discovered? You probably intuit the answer, we don’t frikkin know!

Given these facts, would persons wanting to create more of this deadly material be considered sane? On top of this ambiguity is the instability of accidents, if they can be called that, and of course the targeting of these convenient sites by those who, though they lack the expertise, materials and funding to build first rate nukes themselves, do possess the fanaticism necessary to want to use them. They might settle for blowing up, setting fire to or crashing airplanes into nuclear plants that, with great precision, can be called pre-positioned nuclear devices. Continuing the tradition of the Berrigan Brothers, a group of church activists recently infiltrated a nuclear site, easily reaching the most sensitive areas undetected, eventually searching out security personnel to surrender to. Who should be charged here, the infiltrators or the security personnel? Or perhaps those responsible for the greater decision to build these mad cauldrons, whether you think of them as sociopaths or not.

Speaking of craziness: the arsenals of the U.S. and Russia remain on hair-trigger alert, launch-on-warning, despite the cold war having ended nearly 20 years ago. Dr. Heflin was asked at his talk what rationale is used to justify this insanity in the higher reaches of our government and he suggested that, to know that, we must go there and ask.

The Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) that the U.S. Senate, in its great wisdom, has refused to ratify, and that M’sseurs Bush-Cheney pronounced not in U.S. interests (and which Obama apparently has no time for outside of speeches), was crafted to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons by extracting promises to not develop them by those who haven’t yet, in exchange for promises from those who do have them that they (we) will get rid of them. Since a nuclear war, even a small one, stands a very good chance of creating nuclear winter and ending our great experiment with civilization, how is preventing the spread of nukes not in U.S. interests? Dr. Heflin would probably urge us to take this question to our representatives up there in the higher reaches of our democratically, sort-of, elected government. Leading local groups working to help deliver this message are Nuclear Watch South - nonukesyall.org, Women's Action for New Directions (WAND) gawand.org and stopplantvogtle.com.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Ten Years, Standing for Peace

  Any Army, 1984 Tom Ferguson, oil on canvas (detail)

Surveying aspects of the past – slavery, child labor, oppression of women and workers, war, colonialism, environmental degradation, corruption, nepotism, racism, oligarchy, patriarchy, fascism – one can hardly ignore the injustice of one’s own time and Standing For Peace is one avenue of resistance.”

The above quote came from an activist when asked why she joins the weekly Stand For Peace at 14th and Peachtree in Atlanta, Fridays noon to 1pm. The tenth anniversary of the Stand was celebrated Friday August 24th. The Stand began when members of Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition (GPJC) attempted to meet with Senator Zell Miller, whose office in Colony Square overlooked the corner there. Their purpose was to dissuade him from voting for the invasion of Iraq. Instead of meeting with his constituents the good senator had them arrested when they refused to leave without a meeting. He of course supported the war and was in fact famous, or infamous, as a Democrat, in speaking at the Republican convention in support of the reigning Bush/Cheney clique. His speech was noticeably nutty though, embarrassing even the oligarchs who were exploiting him.

Deciding to Stand For Peace at that corner until the war ended, the initial reception given the anti-war activists from passing traffic was quite hostile. Stereotypical hardhat-types drove by in their pickups holding forth the universal sign of disapproval, “Half a peace sign” one of the standers liked to quip. 

Varying degrees of polite conversations were had with the lunch-time foot traffic, sometimes involving raised voices, usually from the “pro-war” factions. One of the standers was proud of his status as a veteran, and dissenter, of the Vietnam War and usually waved a large U.S. flag, determined to reclaim from the chickenhawks this symbol of freedom (a surprising number of the most enthusiastic warbackers in the Bush administration had avoided the opportunity to serve in the Vietnam war, including Bush himself, Cheney and many others). A shout from a passing vehicle, “Support the president!” was immediately met by this vet with an incisive, “Support the Constitution!” A hard hat stopped at the light and mocked the protestors. Someone pointed out that he was driving a gas guzzler, bringing obliquely into the discussion the prime motivation for the war, oil. “I can afford it.”, responded the driver, missing the point completely, unknowingly advancing the anti-war position. Apparently the three ‘R’s from the first Earth Day, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, had not yet reached the owner of the obscene hummer. Another passerby insisted that, in response to 911, “We’ve got to kick butt.” The analogy apparently fell on deaf ears, that when someone commits a crime we don’t bomb their neighborhood we go after the culprit, and that, unfortunately, not all culprits can be caught and brought to justice. Kicking the butts of people totally unassociated with the 911 attack, rather than exacting revenge is itself a further injustice. This passerby insisted, rather than admit to logical inconsistency, that the neighborhood bombing would be perfectly appropriate. They bombed us, therefore we can bomb them. To tweak an old saying, logic is the first casualty of war. The Hatfields and the McCoys are alive and well, and still killing each other.

An interesting footnote: black citizens were early on generally far more supportive, way ahead of their white counterparts. Dylan’s line from his song about Joey Gallo’s imprisonment comes to mind,

     “His best friends were black men ‘cause they seemed to understand,
       what it’s like to be in society, with a shackle on your hand.”

Gradually, over time, the ratio of support to opposition reversed so that during the tenth anniversary gathering speakers had a hard time being heard above the “honking for peace” coming from Peachtree Street. In contrast to Zell Miller’s calling in the police, Representative John Lewis emotionally renewed his pledge that, “I will not vote one dime for the war machine!” Would that this view were more prevalent in our corporate-owned and ideologically skewered congress. Joseph Lowery also spoke, with the contagious good humor that he brought to his appearance at Obama’s inauguration and with the authority this ethical man, who has opposed injustice with a consistent and courageous vigor, brings to every issue he encounters. The presence of these stellar civil rights heroes was felt as a huge compliment by the veteran standers.

The Stand For Peace continues Fridays at noon, many of the participants in a quandary of supporting as the lesser of two evils the current administration which, though having moved to end the involvement in Iraq (the illegal involvement), inexplicably continues a senseless war in Afghanistan, the longest in U.S. history, and pursues Wikileak’s Julian Assange and the patriot soldier Bradley Manning, while allowing war criminals from the previous administration to skate free. The close-knit by now Stand For Peace activists, after the Stand, usually adjourn to the Colony Square food court for continued discussion of the issues of our day, over lunch. WAND (Women’s Action for New Directions, Georgia), overseen by the inestimable Bobbie Paul, is the primary standard bearer of the Friday action these days who of course invite other concerned citizens to join them.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


                                                            Drawing, Grab Yr Bootstraps, Boy!, Tom Ferguson

The exchange, below, airs a Tea Party position (to be accurate one would have to stipulate that the position elucidated is actually that of the funders of the Tea Party, what they pay people to get us to buy) in contrast to a more progressive view:

I posted this note to a personal list I occasionally send tid-bits.

On Mon, Jul 16, 2012 Tom Ferguson wrote:

6 members of the Walton family (Wal-mart) have more wealth than the bottom 30% of the population. I guess that puts them in the 1%.

One of the recipients got a little defensive,

Anonymous wrote:

“it isn't immoral to work hard. they are rich. so what?  they also have created jobs for hundreds of thousands of people.  they also have the abilitry to sell for less allowing folks to feed their families a bit better because they can afford more.  there is more good to the storey than as you seem to see it, evil. “

Tom Ferguson wrote:

“so, you think the Walton family works 30 billion times harder than the workers they hire at wal-mart?”

Anonymous wrote:

“the company went public sometime ago. teachers unions, firemens unions, cops etc have invested in walmart. it is their retirement funds etc.  all these people own the company.  the waltons also give millions to charities.    So what if they're rich?  they're the ones who risk their money starting the company and their hard work.  I would prefer them to someone who sits on their ass with their hand out wanting someone else to support them.  work is good for people. welfare is not.  I don't like a robin hood society, socialism doesn't work.”

Tom Ferguson wrote

“I'm sure the Sheriff of Nottingham appreciates your support.”

Obviously my devastating final repartee “won” the debate. But this exchange illustrates what the media, politicians, hell, nearly everybody publicly, and disingenuously, laments - polarization, people talking past each other, never for a moment suspending opinion and actually listening to each other.

I would submit that it is hard to patiently consider opinion you know is simply a parroting of sound bites propagated by billionaires via their thinktanks and minions. The purveyor and the adopter of that propaganda would claim, no doubt, that my position, as I accuse theirs, is received wisdom, propaganda bought by me, traceable to God-less Socialists who won’t be satisfied until we are all living in Gulags and driving compact cars, our incentive to excel totally and forever trod underfoot.

Somehow I resist the idea that the two positions are equivalent. Faux News for example as compared to MSNBC – both network commentators ridicule the other side but the former make stuff up out of whole cloth, or take it out of context such that it may as well be made up. The latter ridicule, often simply quoting the opposition or point out their lies, but fabricate they do not. They don’t have to. Faux News, and the politicians they support, do and that is understandable. If you were to openly take the position that the rich should have it all and the rest of us get to compete to maintain their lawns for minimum wage (the minimum wage dropped down to somewhere around zero), well, who would tune in Faux News? Who would vote for the party or individual who took those positions? Obviously no one but the 1%, perhaps a few diehard minions.

So the party and candidates and servants (media, thinktanks etc;) and ideologues of that percent must adopt positions to obscure their loyalties: waving flags is basic, anti-Communism, anti-Socialism, anti-choice and anti-gay have been pretty reliable strategies though becoming somewhat problematic as prejudices in this area wane, weak-on-defense is good, terrorism absolutely required, paint those who care about the life system as fringe radicals or alternatively, or concurrently, consult the corporate greenwashing handbook, and the old workhorse, race… use code here but get as close to open racism as you dare, know your constituency. Oh drugs and immigrants are de rigueur. Against both. And if your opponent attempts to expose any of these strategies try, “I’m just tired of all this polarization.” These positions will likely produce grateful corporate campaign contributions. Not taking these positions will definitely end them and very likely produce hostile attacks and lavish support of your opponent, who will take these positions. Additional groveling before the National Rifle Association, nuclear industry (keep it vague here) and private health insurers will also be helpful in your fund raising. And keep in mind, electronic voting machines are hackable! Good luck and… oh, almost forgot, use this phrase AOAP (as often as possible) …. God Bless America.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Church of the Latter Day Market

                                                                    drawing Authority by Tom Ferguson 

The CIA, since its inception in the late 1940s, has bought, corrupted and otherwise influenced individuals and governments across the world. Their use of money parallels the way wealth buys and otherwise corrupts and over-influences the U.S. government, electorate and other institutions.

Wealthy individuals and corporations make money available to candidates who serve a narrow, corporate, pro-capitalist agenda and who will attack and otherwise undermine the efforts of those with a non-corporate, alternative agenda.

The CIA did it in Iran, essentially buying a revolution, over-throwing a democratically elected government, in the early 50s. Same scenario in Guatemala, same time-frame. Gangsters were used to intimidate and corrupt unions and political parties, in France and Italy after World War II., sometimes in exchange for allowing heroine smuggling into the U.S. These are not “rogue” operations. They are deliberate policies formulated by those with their hands on the levers of power. I risk the obvious: when certain “interests” are at stake the U.S. consistently chooses to ally itself with criminals against citizens practicing democracy.

Oil-rich Texans influenced the shape of our democracy by funding right wing groups such as ex-CIA agent William F. Buckley’s National Review, Billy Graham’s religious taming of the masses and other modestly zanier right wingers such as the John Birch Society. They did not restrict themselves to Texas, targeting “liberal” senators across the nation, lavishly funding their opponents, usually staunch embracers of the religion of anti-communism, meaning actually pro-capitalist privilege. Wealthy activists in other parts of the country may not have been as flamboyant but were no less persistent in their determination to undermine democracy and advance oligarchy.

The ideology of anti-communism is not principled opposition to the real lack of justice and democracy in the states, China, the Soviet Union, who claimed the mantle of socialism with warped commitments to its tenants – no, the capitalist class objected not to its oppressive secret police, gulags etc; as is shown by the alliances mentioned above with gangsters, and in the enthusiastic support for brutal regimes world-wide practicing the very evils they, rhetorically, decry. The threat of Communism to these “patriots” was not in its brutality but in its promise of equality and condemnation of class privilege.

The demise of the Soviet Union produced a smug superiority among the anti-communist clergy, immediately seizing the early 90s events for their propaganda value, claiming a victory for their market church, and moving in for what they perhaps saw as the final triumph over the threat of democracy. The Milton Friedman school of the “free market” spread like cancer, encountering only sporadic resistance until the Occupy Movement emerged, a reaction as inevitable and indicative of a genetic predisposition toward justice as its cousin the Arab Spring. In fits and starts we awake, suffering still the remnants of thousands of years of patriarchy but the life force instinctively seeks to survive and it is clear to the wakeful that whatever advantages might have favored the forces of domination in the past, they now offer only a stampede to extinction.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Mona Lisa

Isabella, oil painting by Tom Ferguson

On some level I am Mona Lisa,… remember that song, Nat King Cole – the voice, just the chorus? Remember that painting? On some level, there we all are, Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa. She’s there (here) vibrating in a smile of being and if we’re not there with her we’re missing the profoundest experience our senses can deliver.
We are at the edge of an avalanche of events which pushes us into the future... all that came before affects us with its momentum... we can hardly pause to make choices yet that is all we do, make choices... we choose a story to explain our predicament, we choose an action based on the values we've chosen... moment to moment... our magnificent evolution story instills awe and wonder... convincing in it's anthropomorphism, attributing this goal-making, desirous emerging of consciousness as if it were already consciously choosing... at odds with the more or less random flux and scramble that evolution is usually portrayed as ... yet why not?... it HAS to be intelligent, it IS intelligence, so random is not a satisfying way to describe its groping proliferation. I have to ponder to accept that the trajectory is toward cooperation and consciousness but it's plain in multi-celled organisms and this conversation is an instance of the impulse towards cooperation as we, together, grope for a deeper glimpse of reality.

Being is an experience which is not of the intellect,... words can only point at it, name it. It consists, pointing at it, of feeling, knowing ALL, ONE... the past, the future, the present, the physical, the metaphysical, vibrating strings, swirling atoms, dividing cells, slamming doors, devious plans, dancing weekends... distant galaxies, super-clusters and beyond, all simultaneously... the connection where you recognize, feel, your connection with everything else... that is enlightenment, that is beyond the fear that drives our culture. that is the mindshift that will divert us from extinction. As I write these words I shift my attention away from fantasies of future/past and paradoxically recognize
that it is mind-chatter, word-chatter that separates me from essential reality which is NOW, here... which is being.

Eckhart Tolle, and other teachers, suggest that we go to the wordless place, the place where the mind is still, NOT thinking... that is where we are connected to the intelligence of the universe and the place is NOW - some like to use the word God for that, being in the presence of God or Being or just being Present. These of course are just words that point at an experience, that experience is the real thing. As soon as we try to "understand it" - with words, it can fizzle and we are back in ego. Ego wants to be "right", only MY words are correct, your words are wrong... let's go to war! No, the only access to BEING, to GOD, is thru the wordless NOW... be here, now,... no words, no thoughts. Now I can hear you saying it is only thru JESUS that we come to GOD and Tolle suggests that that is the same thing, words pointing at the same experience... in fact he quotes from Jesus to support this view, that Jesus was saying this same thing... the kingdom of god is spread upon the face of the earth and we do not see it (because we're in our head thinking). How do we go to the wordless space? We simply become aware, we become the observer. instead of being the words in our head we observe the words and gradually realize we are the observer not the words. Some call this prayer but words are tricky and the mind-chatter habit is ingrained and powerful so we must be careful. I can accept that the word prayer refers to this state but I prefer the more direct word awareness, being, since they are less encumbered with the baggage that blocks being in the moment. Don't judge, just observe – I tell myself.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Is It 1950 or what?

During the slavery era in the U.S. the affluent white population was naturally of two minds about the black population, being as how a large one brought high profits but also a certain vulnerability. The dictum, We are many, they are few applied no less then than now, and then, as now, the 1% gets uncomfortable when the more numerous segment gets restless, starts questioning the 1%-ordained order of things and begins to realize the  latent power in its numbers.

So, Quitman, Georgia: 67% black and 40% in the greater Brooks County area, on the Georgia/Florida border. Public funds in Brooks County are primarily controlled by the school board, mostly white good ol’ boys. Along come uppity Quitman black citizens running for school board. Frustrated by their repeated failure they decide that absentee ballots stand a better chance of actually being counted so they organize a campaign of getting folks to vote absentee. They win. Now the school board is majority black. The board has turned over a new leaf so-to-speak and in so doing the budget is now balanced and without the lay-offs, tax increases and down-sizing planned by the previous board. Apparently this is unacceptable. The GBI and local law enforcement raid and arrest the newly elected board members and descend on those citizens who voted absentee, entering their homes and intimidating with aggressive interrogation aimed at ferreting out (or perhaps inventing) voter fraud. “Why did you vote the way you did?” “Who helped you vote?” Where were these folks while Bush was stealing the Florida vote? Since the board members are now under “indictment” good ol’ boy Governor Nathan Deal demonstrates what he meant when he promised us that “new deal” by using a questionable Georgia law to suspend the new board members and return the board to its former complexion.

The Quitman 10+2 (twelve citizens were indicted in the alleged fraud) adopted three strategies in response:

Challenge the criminal charges in court (which have been reduced by the way);
Challenge the law Governor Deal used to suspend as a violation of the voting rights act;
Run again in the up-coming election.

The first strategy seems a slam-dunk since the charges are ridiculous and wafer thin. The second doesn’t seem to be getting much traction since Obama’s Socialist Muslim administration has been rubber-stamping changes Georgia has made which require federal approval. The third entails the difficulty of over-coming a smear campaign by the good ol’ boy network that has labeled the candidates criminals and played, of course, the racial card. It is however no longer 1950 in Georgia. Voters are less likely to support corrupt leadership based simply on racial manipulation – proof being that the candidates won in a white majority county before they were disenfranchised. The local district attorney has disqualified his office from the trial since the School Board chair works in his office but it was that office that made the original charges – charges that, as mentioned, have been reduced. The appointed lawyer conducting the prosecution has made public statements violating the presumption of innocence that all defendants are entitled to. In the opinion forums accompanying articles about this controversy you can see the polarization around race, the stereotyping of “blacks marching to avoid justice”, and a presumption of guilt and a defense of the indicted persons based on presumptions of white racism and domination. This essay obviously is sympathetic to the latter camp. We shall see what happens as the legal process inches its way along. Arraignment is scheduled for May 29.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Wrong Horse

The apparently irresistible campaign contributions and lobbying that seduced national and state legislators into signing onto privatization and deregulation schemes over the past decades brought us the current economic mess. The push for nuclear power is more of the same, kind of a group-think, ideological commitment unimpeded by critical analysis and driven by an eyes-on-profits fixation. Under-funded anti-nuclear groups across the planet have been trying to make the following points for years about nuclear power:
• Expensive, not competitive with wind/solar, conservation
• Creates extremely long-lived radioactive waste with NO storage solution after more than 50 years
• To terrorists a nuke plant is a pre-positioned nuclear device
• If nukes are safe why won’t the insurance companies cover them?
• Use way too much water & create thermal pollution
• Routinely release toxins into soil, air, river and ground water
These defects are not adequately addressed by the Department of Energy (DOE), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) nor the industry, all apparently captured by the above described fixation.
The dangers of terrorism and insider sabotage at Nuclear sites
• nuclear power plants have shown lax security with 50% penetration in mock attacks, even when security KNEW the dates & times of infiltration.
• Cooling ponds are even more vulnerable than the reactors themselves. The spent fuel in these ponds would burst into flames if exposed to air, dispersing radioactivity widely, creating very long-term dead zones.
• It is very doubtful whether a reactor could withstand impact from a 911-style airliner attack
• the obvious should be noted, that wind and solar panels do not spread extremely long-lived toxins when blown up.
Water Usage
• The two new reactors contemplated at Plant Vogtle on the Savannah River would use the equivalent of the residential water use of Savannah, Augusta and Atlanta, an impact the NRC, during a time of severe drought, incredibly labeled “not significant”.
• The water that is returned to the river is at high temperatures, negatively impacting river habitat
• The water that is lost, 2/3, as vapor, is a global warming gas.

Nuclear Power reactors create something that did not exist prior to the nuclear age, plutonium, a substance essential to making nuclear bombs. The separation between nuclear power and weapons, from the point of view of proliferation, is artificial, mere propaganda, an attempt to legitimate nukes rather than a real difference - the “peaceful atom”, “too cheap to meter” etc; In fact the two are sinister partners creating a large question mark over our future. A single ‘puck’ of plutonium (the size of a hockey puck) if properly dispersed, is toxic enough to cause lung cancer in every person on the planet. In a southern nutshell, nuclear power is the wrong horse.

The weapons program has brought us about 20,000 nuclear warheads, enough to destroy or render the planet uninhabitable. And the belligerent militarism that passes for U.S. foreign policy is teaching countries that wish to maintain their independence or pursue alternative paths to the “free market”, that possessing nuclear weapons may be their only chance of doing so. Incredibly, despite the end of the cold war, many of these weapons remain on hair-trigger alert, ready to launch-on-warning, locked into a lose’em-or-use’em scenario subject to serious malfunction and targeted on cities that pose no threat whatsoever to the United States. This is true insanity.

It is ironic and revealing that the ideological sector most loudly worshipping at the “free market” alter demands taxpayer subsidies for an industry that cannot compete in that market. The subsidies come in the form of loan guarantees, the costs of long-term storage of waste that is toxic for longer than recorded history, and in the Price-Anderson Act, this latter shifting the main burden of expense from an accident onto the taxpayer. In Japan the Government has no choice, it must assume the expense of dealing with the on-going Fukushima disaster since Tepco is not solvent enough to absorb what it will cost, no company is. As for nuclear weapons, to understand the psychology of the spouse or child batterer is to understand the psychology of militarism and profit obsession. This fear-based psychosis cannot be allowed to bring to a close the great experiment of consciousness. The hard truth for latent activists like this writer, who love nothing more than to leisurely wander in the friendly fields of art and culture, is the bitter fact that power cedes nothing without struggle.